Make these small changes in Product Management for big returns

Elephants don’t bite; it’s the mosquitoes you’ve got to be aware of.

Book: The Compounding Effect

Small and consistent improvements in your approach deliver big returns. More so, how you do anything is how you do everything. While some may think the suggestions below are common sense, I’m astonished to say they’re not commonplace.

100 percent ownership

Your success or lack of it starts here — are you taking ownership? Not co-owning, not doing my bit. As a Product Manager, you’re responsible for your product’s success. You may be working with any number of cross-functional teams. But it’s your responsibility to bring the necessary alignment and deliver the product.

  • Yes, you have a project manager to track the project details. But it’s your responsibility as a Product Manager to proactively reach out to the developers, designers, or whoever you’re working with to drive towards the stated goal.
  • Yes, you have a development lead or engineering director. But it’s your responsibility to involve the developers sooner in the game and seek their feedback. Moreover, technical feasibility is an important step in validating the solution.

Early validation

Time and again, in my conversations with a broad spectrum of product managers, I’m concerned to hear that they are jumping to solutions without some basic validations in place.

  • Can you say with conviction that you’re addressing the customer’s pain points? (If not, fix your product discovery process)
  • Have you identified the pain points by interviewing customers/prospects? (A key part of this exercise is to discount the proposed solutions appropriately to stay in the problem space)
  • When we roll this out, can I show the customers what we’re building to seek their feedback early?

As well-intentioned employees, they believe they are doing as they are being told. By whom? We have to guard against the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO) syndrome. While every opinion is welcome, just because you have a higher grade, your opinion shouldn’t sway the product’s direction with no good rationale.

Before you ask, yes, intuition has an important role in shaping the product — gut feel as some may call it. But, take every opportunity to validate your intuition. Otherwise, know that the most expensive way to validate is by building the product.

Start with the end in mind

What’s the end? It’s not when you deploy the solution to the customer. It’s when you validate your original thesis of why you built the product in the first place. So, carefully plan the go-to-market activities early as you’re building the product. Otherwise, go-to-market as an afterthought hinders the success of your product.

  • How are you distributing the product?
  • What’s your customer acquisition strategy and how’re you shaping the product to enable it?
  • What’s your pricing strategy and do you have feature toggles required to enable it?
  • Which stakeholders and cross-functional teams do you need to train for a successful outcome?
  • Are you instrumenting the product to derive useful insights about customer behavior?

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